WHITEHALL, Mich. (WOOD) - For more than 100 years, the Michillinda Lodge was a spot for Midwest tourists to relax and enjoy the great view of Lake Michigan. But the historic, four-story structure burned to the ground in a spectacular blaze early Sunday morning.
Five people were inside the building when the fire started around 4:30 a.m., and the initial 911 call said one of the occupants had a space heater that caught fire.
Flames began to engulf the main building. Firefighters called in a extra manpower, but the problem was getting water to the structure.
"There are not any hydrants in the immediate vicinity," Norton Shores Deputy Fire Chief Bob Gagnon told 24 Hour News 8. "That's why you have to rely on tankers."
The lodge is nestled between White Lake and Duck Lake in Muskegon County, and when the tankers arrived, they drew water from the lakes to douse the flames.
Another major challenge was a large sand dune that sits just feet away from the main property. It, too, caught fire, with the flames spreading 75-100 feet up the sides.
But fire crews scaled the dune and put out the flames and were also able to save nearly a dozen other outbuildings and cottages on the resort property.
"We've just gone through an extensive renovation of all the buildings, which included the lodge -- which is burned down," owner George Wixom told 24 Hour News 8.
He is one of three owners that bought Michillinda lodge some 12 years ago.
But its history dates back to the late 1800s.
Wixom said it was built as a summer home for a Chicago family. It's been a bar, a hotel, bed and breakfast and resort over the past century.
The name Michillinda came from the combined names of Michigan, Illinois and Indiana -- the main area of tourists it served.
The main lodge had 18 guest rooms and two dining rooms with seating for more than 200, and its spectacular views of Lake Michigan made it ideal for reunions and weddings.
"We had around 20 weddings booked for this coming season and would have probably gone to around somewhere around 30, I would think, because we have more wedding shows coming up," Wixom said. "So it would have been a nice year for us and we still think there are some things that could possibly be done."
No one was hurt. The owners are assessing the damage and it's too early to tell whether or not they will completely rebuild.
Fred Glespie was found not guilty in the death of three children who died in an apartment fire.
Police are looking for the suspect in an armed robbery that occurred at a gas station in Plainwell Thursday night.
The rink will be open that day from 3-9 p.m.